The game has a shitty game-design

I was reading some forum topics, and was stumbled by this post with the hot discussions in it, about sub-topics of ones I found some to say, but when I started to write my thoughts I realised that it’s more general:

The game has a shitty game-design.

When I start the game I look at the tools that the game gives me, look at my possibilities and exactly in that moment I realise what is going to be not just now, but all the game next to it (further I write what is difficult to describe in words, so please not take it literally as a what I realise that moment): no new tools and ways to interact with the game beyond the ones that have been already given, although these same tools are not of significant interest to use them constantly.

The is no interest nor in a process, nor after achieving a goal, because after all of this there will be all this again - the exact understanding of what will necessary to do for surviving, the exact routine for achieving it, and the realization that nothing else is required - just perform actions, the sequence of which is obvious, but long and tortuous due to the implementation of interaction between a player and the game (peculiarities of the text in-game process).

in instance that is why I dropped Project Zomboid after an !!!TUTORIAL!!! - just as the game started - complete realization of what actions I shall need to do to survive: build a house in a forest and rise the vegetables… and all the other parts of the game would be the same expirience time and again - hords of zombies along the cities, the same looting in every house, the same the same the same times and again!

and I would say that is due to the shitty game desing: although the game is sandbox, it doesn’t mean that the player should point the goals and to be trying to achieve it, only because it’s the sandbox; I’m sure that even here one could find the way to by the game’s player’s instruments create a whole full-Neumann architectured computer with its own OS, like it’s possible in Factorio, Terraria, Minecraft, etc., but that does not mean that the game is completed by given to a player such possibilities as a sandbox game. Shitty game design here is in that that the player just will not to will that, and not 'cuz he is stupid, not seeing the possibility of sandbox in creating even the full PC, but for a reason of that that it is not worth it, it would be not interestingly, he would not catch the new experience through doing that, - he would realise that from the begining to the very end it would be by his design, from start to finish, in the exact same way he was drawing it in his mind - and not by drop more than that: no pleasant surprises, astonishments, and while the little details that might come to light and make the path more rewarding (abuse, indirect ways to get something, etc.) - it wouldn’t be worth it, because… just for the sake of these moments it would not be worth it, not worth playing - it would not be worth wasting time

For me, C:DDA was interesting only because it had an emphasis on brutal realism and unusual in-game controls, which for me was the main game to study; thanks to the experience of PZ, I immediately realized that there would be nothing interesting beyond this.

What I described I observe in “real life” too, as from me itself, as from the other people: many people understand how to do many things, how to allocate resources, how the system should be organized - how everything should be, but instead of starting to do and apply everything that they understand - they refuse it. For example, many people could be the best presidents, the best builders, the best doctors, the best judges - by just realizing how it would have to be if they took it on and did it themselves, they immediately refuse to do it; because it would be monotonous work for them, which, having thought through from the very beginning to the very end, they would simply do monotonously in order to eventually get the result that they planned from the very beginning and which they could definitely get, because they planned from the very beginning full path that would work… and it so happens that the best of those who could do something do something else, by this with realizing that, just ask them (and they would agree), they would be taking greater benefit for a society by doing other work (and I’m not saying that everyone should do something against its will, and that that great things do not happen when people doing things on which their knack works on - it is just an example of refusing the work on the ground of deep intuitive understanding what will be going on, having with that other options to work with).

The same people who go to these professions and become those in whose places there could be people better than them, do it because they find it interesting - they kind of (or not even kind of) do not yet understand everything that they have to do , of what difficulties they will have to face, of what their activities will consist of - because, learning new things, realizing all this only now, they are interested in it, taking places in which their tasks would be better performed by other people who see all this from the very beginning, and probably still would be better than them in many aspects, even after their graduating.

and just like I just described my experience of “refusal” from the game - I understood “everything”, and therefore it is not interesting

When I was reading the post I was stumbled by, it comes to my mind, too: it seems that those who understand it that way just are not playing this game and not wasting their time here (kudos to their smartness), having refusing it from the very first look, while the game (and this place, forum) bring the people who for the some reason still enjoy it while there is no reason to stay here as other games give more chills (and REASONS to play!) (caves of qud, songs of syx, and, I dunno… already mentioned Terraria, Minecraft, Factorio, etc.?) (and not nesseceraly in roguelike genre - the games in general)…

P.S. there were a topic on github with tutorials proposals (Improve new player experience · Issue #57571 · CleverRaven/Cataclysm-DDA · GitHub), this (Modeling the recent events before the game start (warning: spoilers) · Discussion #60406 · CleverRaven/Cataclysm-DDA · GitHub) and many other things, and maybe they could give a shot for the new look on the how things should be done, including the possible ways of future development.

I’m not a 100% sure if I understand you correctly, but reading your example of why you no longer play Project Zomboid, then do you mean you hate that there are just some strats that will make the game easier?

The rest I just can’t decipher, sorry about that.

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If your goal in cataclysm is just surviving of course its going to get monotonous and boring, you need bigger goals, vormithrax has over 4k hours in the base game (no mods) and finds ways to make the game challenging by giving himself goals and limitations.

I myself have been playing off and on for nearly 10 years, i still find the game interesting. I like the fact that im not just playing a survival game but am following each character through their life in the caraclysm (and usually their demise).

I don’t see cataclysm as just a game, i see it as a virtual world with many tools, scenarios, stories, and challenges for me to enjoy. If your not enjoying the way your playing, you need to try a different route.

The core devs and community can design any feature, mechanic, scenario that they want, and can suggest unlimited changes, the problem is that it takes people to implement those changes, and everybody is working on their own content they see a suggestion that is interesting enough to change their focus from their great idea.

i would not call the design shitty, the game has gotten multiple RL GOTY awards and frequently gets cited as one of the best survival games of all time along with large indie and AAA titles, while being free, and 100% open source and easy to modify.

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What you describe as “shitty game design” is simply that the game is not designed to your tastes.
The progressive revelation of features and challenges you describe is a common video game element, but by no means universal.


Calling the game “shitty” is not quite fair in my opinion. It has lots of redeeming qualities. Nothing else quite like it exists.

That having been said, there is some merit to what you’re trying to express (if I understand you correctly). I’ve recently been thinking about the shortcoming of the game and reached the conclusion that its far less engaging than it could be. While Vormithrax may be able to set his own goals and enjoy himself, I don’t this it’s sufficient or acceptable. Good games are supposed to provide purpose for the players.

But yea… I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. Like I said earlier, unpaid hobby development isn’t very oriented to finding out or fulfilling player needs. A commercial studio would most certainly have put in more plot, scenarios and maybe even a story campaign. It’d be necessary in order to appeal to a wider audience and increase sales. Since that’s not relevant here, it may not happen. We’ll just have to make do for now. It has still been great fun for me and I hope more elements addressing the feeling of missing purpose will be added at some point in the future.


We have the tools to add missions and chained missions now, only problem is there are few people working on them. Its JSON work so anyone can learn to do it in a couple hours by reading the documentation on the GitHub, or checking out the missions already in game (like Hub01 for example).

Its a good opportunity for someone looking to contribute without learning the ways of the programming jedis to write missions up in a design, such as plot, steps, rewards etc. That would give someone a good place to start, caveat is, if your not implementing it, youll have to wait until someone else does.

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I vehemently disagree with this. That is a valid style, that is a valid preference, but it is not remotely universal.

You even acknowledge that this style caters to mass market adoption, which is in conflict with quality.

Narrative driven games are massively limiting to player freedom, because the goal of the game is to walk the player through the story.

In short, if you want a mass market game go play one.

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{quote=“0x91, post:1, topic:28335”}
The game has a shitty game-design.



Most of what you said is either true or something we can agree to disagree about. However I object the view that mass market products couldn’t be of high quality. Just because a lot of people like something doesn’t automatically make it worse.

Also, it’d not be impossible to have both a freeform sandbox approach and a narrative campaign in the same product. That has been done before and a game providing both freedom and purpose however the player chooses is a better game than one without the option.

But in the end, I don’t think this discussion will lead anywhere. Everyone isn’t supposed to have the same preferences and I can respect that.


If I understand right you want some “main mission”. There are at least two mods that do that.
One is about to go to some central lab and do something here to stop cataclysm advance.
The other is about build a space ship.
I dont provide links for certain reason but I m sure you can find them.

I had a lot of trouble understanding what youre saying but it sounds like the game just isnt for you. That doesnt mean its a bad game or has bad design.

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This is an interesting scenario because you are both right, in a sense. A mass market product can be made extremely well - but by its definition, its designed for a very wide audience, so its design will generally lack depth. Without depth, without a focus on a specific market slice or segment, the game cannot achieve the full potential of all its ideas. Look at how games are homogenizing towards open world action rpg looters with 1-2 stat gear for all their mechanics. Those games can be fun games, but every element is shallow, lacking the potential it could have. But some find deeper, involved crafting tedious. Some find deeper stats for gear too difficult to digest, too complex. Deep skill systems make it harder to plan out a build in thirty seconds, which is the attention span you have for a new UI page per mass market designs. The minimum is included to draw in people who like some of it, and no more, less the extra depth be too much for people to bother with.

Compare that to a game like CDDA, which prioritizes realism of interactions with the world over ease of execution - not on a UI/UX standpoint, but from a world simulation and player involvement standpoint. Making armor is a complex affair, and CDDA simulates a huge pile of elements, knowledge, tools, skills, and the significant time involvement required to make it - And then tries to reduce that down to an extended, single crafting action.

The CDDA design is genuinely really good (NPC’s excluded, sorry but they’re really bad) for what it is trying to achieve, but its also way too much for a casual player to digest as a passing thing. You have to commit to some level to learning the game, and its expectations of you, before you can get the rewards back. And for many, the rewards aren’t worth the commitment, and that’s fine.


Good thoughts!

This is exactly what we are trying to improve in Improve new player experience · Issue #57571 · CleverRaven/Cataclysm-DDA · GitHub. Not to make the game easier, not to give players a goal, but to carefully teach new players about what they CAN do in the game and lead them to the idea of creating their own goals to pursue and enjoy

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If I understood the OP, the suggestion is that the game is a predictable grind with few surprises so players will leave once they realize the tedium of everything they imagine doing. I didn’t read the provided links.

So far I have not found the game to have a shitty design, but I have found it to be tedious on many occasions and on a certain level I have mentally admitted that this is a game I will only play for a short time. The time investment is immense and the real world has more to offer. In a way, the OP is correct.

Aside from obvious functional improvements to inventory management, npc/monster pathfinding, and completing the game world I wonder what changes would create surprises and storylines.

I have already found the game to tell better stories than most. That is actually why I began playing it and when I am not bogged down with sorting through inventories the game has generated some stories that made it worthwhile. Since I have only been playing for a week, there is still a lot that I don’t know.

I imagine that if the game begins to simulate NPC behavior to the extent that every NPC becomes like a roaming player character traveling the world, collecting things, killing monsters, etc. then there would be a lot of interesting things happening in that living world. If I learn enough about the game to contribute then I would be focused on bringing the NPCs and monsters to life. It would really be fascinating to incorporate limited AI like GPT-4 to outline plotlines for NPCs and to auto-script conversation trees and outcomes between multiple NPCs as well as NPCs and PCs. Those scripts amount to personalities and they could be distributed with the game, shared between players, and reused.

AI might also be leveraged to generate new and colorful descriptions of the in game combat for people with sufficiently powerful computers or those who are willing to pay for that feature. As an optional, revenue generating feature, this might enable CDDA to compensate the developers for their efforts. Paying players would get a functionally identical game, but every action and item in their world would get a unique description. All of those generated descriptions could be saved and distributed with the free game too, but the paying players would always be the first to see a unique description because those descriptions would be made on demand for them.

It’s great that so much of the game can be generated and that the player character can theoretically do everything on their own, but this may be a weakness. I can see how, as a consequence, the player is required to learn ever increasing amounts of game meta in order to accomplish goals. This has worked for games like minecraft, but I’m not sure if it is actually fun. I see children watching hundreds of hours of minecraft tutorials. It would be better if they were learning more about the physical world and spending less time working in virtual worlds. A potentially contentious solution would be to expand on NPC interactions and severely limit the benefits of grinding.

Grinding isn’t fun. It would be better if skill progression took months/weeks/years in game and if the grinding was assigned to NPCs to do automatically. The idea is that the starting abilities of each character would be practically fixed and that players would need to find and rely upon the skills of the various NPCs in the game world. If the world is not too populous then there would always be challenges and compromises taking place. The debug feature to switch characters should be a standard ability and effort should be made to refine team tactics and the colony simulation. The answer to most problems should involve exploration, interaction, and executive direction. All of the grinding and deep game mechanics can be left to the NPCs, off-screen and out of mind.

Instead of CDDA being a bags of bags simulator that plays like a complex game of solitaire, it could be a game of chance which challenges the player to use the tools at hand to react to a dynamic living simulation full of dramatic story arcs.

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Given the setting of the game there is 110% more room for automation gameplay, from making servitors to do mundane tasks to salvaging industrial equipment to automate the production of equipment that would otherwise just be a nuissance for the player.

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Automation in the sense that the player don’t have to do a bunch of micromanagement and button presses? Sure.
Automation as in setting up a Factorio style assembly line? No.

I’ve wrote a whole poem about my thoughts, but after some time understood that it’s better to do things instead of complaining, although it may still be relevant to the current state of the game

if you're still wondering: the main point of mine is that (click to see):

there is no reason to not giving a damn about the game’s world, and, therefore, about doing something in it; the state in which a player finds himself, where he is thinking about for what he is playing for, in which the current game being, is consequence of not giving a damn about anything in the game’s world, on the grounds of which there is no spontaneous desire to do something (AND! you just think about it: the very fact that the player asks himself why he should play (what a challenge to put himself), instead of him, being excited, himself to stretch to try everything, when the game intuitively would captivating him and the goal in the end would be set naturally and as a matter of course - this is the disease that I am talking about)…

but, again, better to do things and not just talking, right?.. my whole lengthy I’ll keep for now, but there are some thoughts (and it’s not quite to the main topic, but in continuation of it):

Maybe I some day will contribute; for now, would I contributing these days, I would point out this steps of the foreseeable future of the game development:

  1. To make the game launcher, in which is able to download experimental builds, mods, soundpacks, etc. as the main part of the game’s files, which would mean its including to the basic download of the game; at least for the time it’s supporting by the community, and prioritize its supporting
  2. To make the game’s own soundtrack by default, for example, based on the o8v57j’s one; to avoid some copyright issues I would mark it as “having a good reviews”, or similar to that, and not as “recommended” or alike, and would put it in “optional downloads - community works”, just to be completely safe (and it’s the best soundtrack I found so far, for me); 'cuz it gives a whole lot to the game experience
  3. To make the game available on the Steam, by creating some open-source free license publisher’s account, avoiding to getting game’s rights to someone
  4. To make the game’s ways of keeping player’s attention to the game’s world, by getting it important to him and thus making him worry about its fate, giving to to the world meaning 'cuz I’m seeing it as the main reason of game’s issued design; and to keep focusing on this as the main goal of finish development.

// [4] the main thing is the player have no experience with interacting with world [before setting his own goals in it], and thus its not familiar to his heart to be loved and returning to the game after closing it

and it’s nice to end, as always, by giving a simple truth:
as @ItzStone already wrote:

We have the tools to add missions and chained missions now, only problem is there are few people working on them. Its JSON work so anyone can learn to do it in a couple hours by reading the documentation on the GitHub, or checking out the missions already in game (like Hub01 for example).

Its a good opportunity for someone looking to contribute without learning the ways of the programming jedis to write missions up in a design, such as plot, steps, rewards etc. That would give someone a good place to start, caveat is, if your not implementing it, youll have to wait until someone else does.

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Is this the best place to start:

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There are at least 2 launchers (GitHub - Fris0uman/CDDA-Game-Launcher: A Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead launcher, GitHub - qrrk/Catapult: A cross-platform launcher for Cataclysm: DDA and BN), there is a soundtrack (GitHub - Fris0uman/CDDA-Soundpacks: A continuation of the CO.AG soundpack initiated by SkyBreach), game right’s simply cannot be affected whether game is on Steam or not (you can read more on Steam here - Steam Dark Days Ahead).

As for point 4 - you can read more on CDDA design in CDDA Design Document. It does not prevent creating mods that have different design or even lore.

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